Default judgments

how many evictions happen "by default" ?

Use this tool to see the types of eviction judgments the court enters over time.

When a tenant does not attend a scheduled court hearing, judges rule in favor of the landlord "by default."

During the pandemic, default judgments imply that tenants were unable access programs and protections that could have delayed if not prevented their eviction.


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Most tenants who were evicted during the pandemic never had their day in court.

Research shows that systemic barriers work in concert to exclude poor tenants from the courtroom.

During the pandemic, courts were required to turn first hearings in eviction cases into pretrial hearings and to inform tenants about the rights and resources available to them; if a tenant did not appear, the court was required to reschedule the hearing and send notice to the tenant of the new hearing date.

The court entered fewer default judgments during the pandemic than ever before, but 1 in 4 cases closed during the pandemic resulted in a default judgment against tenants who did not appear in court. Defaults comprised 55% of judgments pre-pandemic and 85% since.

Default judgments are particularly unjust in Detroit, where many landlords are operating fraudulently and/or illegally.

Legal jargon

Judgment: The court’s decision in an eviction case. A judgment of possession entered for a landlord (against a tenant) means a landlord can recover possession of a property and file an order of eviction if a tenant does not pay the amount due (in nonpayment cases) or move out by a set date. Judgments almost always favor landlords, dispossess tenants, and show up on tenants' housing records for years.

Default Judgment: A judgment entered in favor of a landlord (against a tenant) if a tenant does not file a written answer with the court or appear at their scheduled court hearing.

Consent Judgment: A judgment with terms agreed to by both parties and entered by a judge. The agreement may include a range of conditions required by either party, but will usually contain payment terms the tenant must comply with by a certain date, otherwise the landlord can request an order of eviction.

Bench Trial: A trial where a judge makes a decision in favor of either the landlord or the tenant, if both parties appear and do not agree to settle the case (either party may alternatively request a Jury Trial). The landlord has the burden at trial of proving that a lawful reason for eviction exists and that they are entitled to possession of the property. The tenant may offer evidence for a legal defense that protects them from being evicted.